Does anybody remember that one time when everybody put a scrolling Twitter feed on a website because they could? Oh, right, that’s still going on right now. Can anybody really give you a good reason why a Twitter feed belongs on the front page of a company’s or non-profit’s website? I’m not talking about a small simple “follow me” link or button, I mean those bulky, full-on Tweet repeating lists.
At Oxide, almost every client we partner with on a website requests a Twitter feed on their homepage, because they’ve seen it in a zillion places. But we have yet to hear an adequately compelling argument on how a Twitter feed will help achieve the overall goals of a website to convince us to shove one into a design. For us, it all boils down to intended flow of traffic.
The basic argument here is that Twitter should flow inward to your site; not the other way around. If that one (or even the last few) 140-character blurbs actually belongs on your homepage, then it should be in the form of a longer featured blog post or some other permanent facet of your actual site content. You should then be using your Twitter feed to push people to that permanent element, and that should be a one-way transaction. The problem we see is that inevitably those Twitter feeds link off your site back to Twitter, drawing people away. Even if the feed doesn’t link back to Twitter directly, it serves almost entirely as a distraction, and don’t bring anything actually useful to a site design. (Also: simply dropping in a Twitter feed is not an effective way to “keep your site content fresh”.)
The only argument that I can possibly think of which logically supports the use of an on-site Twitter feed is that you want people jumping away to Twitter to read your feed. Perhaps you’ve somehow found a way to store relevant content within your Twitter feed instead of your actual website and need people to jump out to Twitter to see something that they wouldn’t or couldn’t see after they’ve already been to your site. If so, then you’re doing the internet wrong.
Look at it this way, if your website is an endpoint or a destination, and Twitter is the highway that gets people to you, why would you provide them with a giant off-ramp away from your destination? As a company, you’re usually building a site in which you need vested interest in order to turn over product or engage a customer in some way. Why shove people out the door into traffic once you have them already?
We’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. Ever seen a Twitter feed embedded on a home page that served the goals of the website? Are there situations where the strategy makes sense?